Curriculum Overview

The USPP programme integrates three core focus areas to provide a comprehensive educational experience:

• Urban Theory Core Course provides students with a foundation that incorporates centuries of critical thinking about cities, and reviews historical and emerging urban planning paradigms.

• Urban Data and Methods Core Courses teach social science research methodologies, Geographic Information Science (GIS) and relevant data science techniques such as machine learning, network analysis and interactive data visualization. These courses train USPP students to effectively collect, analyse and present data in the context of urban planning and policy.

• Urban Practice and Policy Core Courses prepare students to critically assess, understand and craft evidence-based policies and programmes, while being attuned to the institutional context of urban economics, politics and governance.

The USPP programme is structured into three terms. In the first term, students complete three integrated courses across the core areas, and an elective course.

During the second term, students participate in an advanced course on Urban Data and Methods, two elective modules (offerings are subject to change depending on course and instructor availability) and a course on leadership and planning in Singapore. The latter course brings students outside of the classroom to learn from policy makers and practitioners at key development projects in and around Singapore.

Finally, in the third term, students will complete a Master Research Project where students have a choice of two tracks: Group Research Project or Individual Research Project. Students will have to declare their chosen track by the middle of Term 2. More details on the Master Research Project will be shared in Term 2.

Course Overview

Required Courses
This course exposes students to foundational theories and key socio-economic processes and trends that have given shape and meaning to urban development across a number of time periods and cultural contexts. Through an emphasis on the historical and future drivers of change in cities, students will relate theories of the social and physical evolution of cities to structural change, social and political movements, technological advancements, and public policy that impacts urban systems more generally.
This course introduces fundamental research methodologies in urban analysis. It covers a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methods, from spatial and statistical analysis and machine learning to survey design and ethnography. Students will be trained to understand when (and for which questions) different methods might yield the most appropriate answers. An emphasis is placed on how to reason and approach real world issues through data, rigorously highlight interrelationships and make pointed inquiries into what causal factors may exist in order to generate insights for decision making.
This course contends with some of the practical problems and issues faced by urban planners and policy-makers. Using real world examples in a complex environment, the course gives students an introduction to an array of techniques and approaches used to analyse projects, policies, and other changes impacting cities, including some of their limitations. The course will also provide an overview of key processes and lessons to enable new, innovative policies and practices to take hold within governance systems.
Electives (1)

Even the most carefully developed urban policies, when haphazardly implemented and not monitored, will lead to unintended outcomes. In extreme cases, the policies exacerbate the problems they are supposed to solve. Cities across the world face the perennial challenge of developing the right policy and implementing the policy right. This challenge has grown larger as the “urban” becomes increasingly complex.  This course takes the premise that “cities are complex systems” to tease out the relationship between policy, political governance and well-being in the context of urban complexity. Thematically, the course will draw on topical urban issues (such as poverty, environment, health, heritage, identity and sports & recreation) to spur critical thinking on how inherent complexities might cause urban design and policies to have different outcomes amongst people and in places. Themes will be chosen on a rotation basis and no more than three will feature in each iteration of the course.

This course provides students in technology and design with comprehensive knowledge on finance for urban development and management by introducing a range of terms, vehicles, instruments, schemes, and implementations along theoretical frameworks and real-world scenarios. The entire course work consists of three large sections: (I) public challenges; (II) private initiatives; and (III) social technologies. This means that the topics of urban finance covered by this course are not only the fundamentals of conventional government finance for public resource allocation, social wealth distribution, and market stabilization (e.g., market failures, public goods, tax policy, intergovernmental transfers, fiscal decentralization, and interjurisdictional coordination) but also the advancements of unconventional corporate, entrepreneurial, and social finance for competitive and sustainable urbanization (e.g., project finance and public-private procurement strategy, international financial markets and institutions, urban climate and green finance, land marketization and land value capture, real estate investment and asset securitization, and financial technology).  The course takers are expected to acquire both hard and soft knowledge on urban finance through a few basic analytical exercises and international case studies for broader social applications and cooperative actions across sectors.

Required Courses
This course focuses on quantitative and computational approaches to urban analytics and data science. It exposes students to new ways of collecting large datasets (“big data”) and innovative methods of analysing such datasets. It draws on both more conventional methods such as spatial statistics and Geographic Information Systems, as well as how to appropriately use methods from data science and machine learning within an urban context.

Click here for learning objectives.

Singapore has been recognized as a successful and well-managed global city in numerous international rankings of cities. In particular, it is often used to illustrate the importance of good leadershjp and planning in urban development. This course will help students understand how Singapore approaches its urban challenges, such as housing, transport, environmental degradation, job creation and the management of diversity. Through the careful examination of these empirical, Singapore-specific issues including visits to relevant agencies and organizations, broader questions that will have direct relevance to the development processes of other cities will be raised.

Electives (2)

*Electives are not fixed and are subject to availability during term

This course is designed specially for MUSPP students by the LKYCIC to answer the question “how do I make the smart city work?”, as they embark on related careers in industry, government and academia. Students need not have a technical background. All they need is a capacity to respect each other’s intellect, and to be willing to have a robust discussion with each other in the safety of the classroom. That way, we can build on each other’s ideas, and advance our individual and collective understanding.

The course links smart city theory and practice. It will equip students with an understanding of the different domains and stakeholders in the smart city. It will trace the evolution and development of smart cities, as well as the technologies, systems, and urban infrastructure that underpin them. The case for and the criticisms against smart cities will be examined, with a strong emphasis on the human and social dimensions. The impact of emerging economic and societal trends, especially the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), will also be explored.

More details — including the class topics covered — can be found at

This course introduces a conceptual framework for understanding real-world topics related to transportation technology and urban policy applications by examining a variety of international cases and development practices, including Singapore and other emerging economies in Asia, in a comparative manner. Particularly, the course tries to inspect and explain the dynamic and complex interplays between (i) evolving transportation technology, (ii) entrepreneurial state policy, and (iii) urban market progress/shrinkage on different network levels and/or geographic scales – macro, mezzo, and micro – in contemporary development and even prospect management contexts. Therefore, the “technologies” covered by this course are not only typical urban travel modes within cities (e.g., private automobile, public transit, and non-motorized transportation) but also extensive and unconventional interregional passenger, freight, and communication systems across cities (e.g., aviation, high-speed rail, worldwide e-commerce and e-logistics, and emerging smart applications). The urban influences of various transportation technologies in globalization as well as localization are widely reviewed from engineering, financial, economic, environmental, and social standpoints, and technological potentials and policy challenges are proactively discussed for upcoming applications in Asia’s urban development and management contexts.

Click here for learning objectives (for existing students).

The course seeks to help students develop an integrated understanding of environmental and ecological issues from the point of view of the humanities, broadly understood (incorporating literature, the arts, philosophy and cultural studies), in conjunction with technology. The course will consist of readings of excerpts from several imaginative works such as novels and stories, combined with some theoretical readings from non-fiction that help us engage with these texts. These readings will be combined with assignments involving both traditional essays and hands-on exploration of the students’ own geospatial environment in Singapore as case study, the latter to be documented with the help of user-centered digital mapping using tools and resources such as QGIS, GeoCommons and OpenStreetMaps.

The ‘Anthropocene’ refers to ‘(the) Age of Mankind’—the subsequent geological age after the Holocene that denotes the significant and unprecedented impacts of human actions on different global systems. The world in the Anthropocene is quintessentially, a ‘world as design’. Yet design studies have yet to be connected to, or contextualized within, the novel conditions that accompany the onset of the Anthropocene, when artificial design has unprecedentedly become the background, as well as the approach, for coordinating and supporting everyday life. What are the new categories for design in the Anthropocene? Furthermore, how do these categories and concepts modify, or even confound, what we already understand in design theory? What then are the new issues and challenges for design in the Anthropocene? In this course, existing design theory will be introduced, and explicated in relation to the Anthropocene condition through seven emerging topical issues: (i) designing with living systems 1 (human-beings); (ii) designing with living systems 2 (more-than-human agencies and other ecosystems); (iii) open systems and incomplete design; (iv) large-scale sociotechnical systems 1: Smart Cities; (v) large-scale sociotechnical systems 2: Artificial Intelligence; (vi) large-scale sociotechnical systems 3: Climate change adaptations; (vii) design ethics.

The course seeks to help students develop an integrated understanding of how, in both the sciences and technology and in the arts and humanities, form and content shape each other. The course will consist of readings in various different media of imaginative works, combined with some readings in theory and philosophy that help us engage with these texts, combined with some hands-on making and exploration whenever possible. The class will be highly interdisciplinary and multimodal, and we will look at examples drawn from literature, visual arts, music and virtual/augmented reality — and focus especially on their relationships to technology and to computation.

In recent years, growing attention has been given to the social, cultural, political and economic consequences of design by both practitioners and social scientists who study technology. However, concern about social impacts usually appear very late in the design process, or only after unexpected consequences occur. “Interventions in Design, Technology, and Society” hopes to change this by introducing students to important theoretical tools and conceptual frameworks developed in the social sciences. Students will use these tools to uncover the economic, political, and other forces that shape the design process, explore how values and norms are built into technologies, track the effects of technologies on society, and use these insights to experiment with, and hopefully improve, design practices and outcomes. The goal is to enable social scientific reflection on and redirection of design practices at an early stage of technological production. Accordingly, the course is organised along important social scientific concepts, for example ‘network’ and ‘audience,’ each of which will be covered in two phases. First, students will study and evaluate key social scientific ideas that explain the social dimensions of technological design through readings, class discussions, and written assignments. Second, they will use those concepts to make experimental interventions, for example through archival research or fieldwork, video and image-based documentation, and creative experiments with design, in an effort to “design for a better world.”

This course teaches students the concepts, skills and techniques of online, interactive map design and data visualization. In doing so, it covers both the modern web development workflow and Javascript programming. These fundamental programming tools and techniques are mastered in an applied context of designing and building interactive visualizations. Apart from a foundational understanding of the building blocks of the modern web (HTML, CSS, Javascript), students learn to build visualizations using industry-standard Javascript libraries such as Leaflet and D3 through a series of lab-based assignments and projects. The course keeps a focus on the entire iterative design workflow throughout the semester and culminates in a final group project in which a sequence of prototypes leads to a final online, interactive data visualization.
Click here for learning objectives.

This course provides students with an understanding of current challenges and opportunities in urban land transportation. It introduces the fundamental elements of urban transportation systems, their benefits and costs, their interactions, and analytical tools and methods to assess technologies and system performance. Topics include transportation network modeling, traffic simulation, travel demand modeling, vehicle powertrains, and intelligent transportation systems (ITS). Students will complete two group projects.

Click here for learning objectives (for existing students).

Buildings help to build social life itself. More than just mute products of human design or the contextual backdrops of human activity, they play key causal roles in (re)configuring social relations, cultural, religious, and political identities, and sensibilities about historical and geographical belonging. At the same time, active human processes of dwelling in turn imbue houses and other architectural structures with significance, meaning, and memory that transcend their material forms. Using the past and present architectural fabric of Singapore and the surrounding region as illustrative inspiration, this course offers an introduction to anthropological approaches to architecture and the built environment. It provides students with conceptual tools to understand the interactions between humans (in all of their social, cultural,  and historical diversity) and their built surroundings.

Click here for learning objectives (for existing students).

When tsunamis flood cities, earthquakes turn highways to rubble, and epidemics of disease break out, we blame Nature for bringing disaster onto human populations.  Yet the fault lines of disaster fall along pathways laid out by human activities and plans, bringing unequal affliction to the vulnerable, and exposing the role of technology and design in shaping–as well as mitigating–disaster. Drawing concepts and methods from across the social sciences, this course explores the human, social and cultural dimensions of natural and technological disasters.

Click here for learning objectives (for existing students).

This course introduces core economic theory in urban economics, with a specific focus on one of the following: housing, health, urban environment and resources. For this iteration, the focus is on housing and urban economics. The course teaches standard economic theory for analyzing the housing market and the spatial organization of cities. Topics that are discussed in the course include migration decisions, matching on the housing market, housing security, location choice, segregation, rent regulation, housing prices, construction, real estate cycles, public economics, spatial equilibrium, land use, the monocentric city, inter-city migration and urban sprawl. Fundamental principles in micro-, macro- and financial economics are covered in class and applied to the housing market. The key takeaway is the economic theory and its real-world policy implications.

There is an increasing recognition of the role social and technological factors play in shaping the health and well-being of individuals. Communication, from the personal to mass and social media, have been demonstrated to have both beneficial and harmful effects on health and well-being. This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of health communication and behavior change. It will cover the definition and history of health communication, the role of media and technology, social scientific theories used in health communication and behavior change, as well as how these theories can be applied to the real-world. The course will aim to bridge theoretical knowledge with real-world examples, and is suitable for students with varying interests, especially those who are interested in harnessing communication, design, and technology for better health and well-being in society.

Understanding how and why facets of communication influence health outcomes is essential for students interested in developing effective technological and design solutions that improve health and well-being. Some questions we will tackle include: What social, environmental, and technological factors are effective in influencing people’s behavior? How should they be designed and molded? Can stories help people engage in healthier behaviors? How can technology and design help to foster better health and well-being in society?

Required Courses

The final term is dedicated for students to complete a Masters Research Project. Students have a choice of two tracks: Group Research Project or Individual Research Project. Students will have to declare their chosen track by the middle of Term 2. More details on the Master Research Project will be shared in Term 2.

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